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Tuesday, Kislev 13, 5782 / November 17, 2021


Q.    Is Chanukah a Biblical holiday, or a rabbinical holiday?


A.    Chanukah and Purim are rabbinical holidays.  The holidays of Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot are Biblical holiday as they are mentioned in the Torah, written by Moshe. The miracle of Chanukah took place about 1200 years after the Giving of the Torah.  It was established by the rabbis of that time to commemorate the miracle of the oil and the dedication of the Holy Temple.


Q.   Every morning, afternoon and evening service has an “Amidah” (or Shmone Esrei) prayer in it. On special occasions, like Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays, after reading from the Torah, we recite an additional Amidah prayer, called “Musaf” (Musaf means addition).  Why don’t we recite the Musaf prayer during the eight days of Chanukah?


A.   The morning and Mincha (afternoon) Amidah prayers are instead of the morning and afternoon sacrifices which were offered in the Holy Temple each day, as mentioned in the Torah.  On special days, such as Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays, the Torah instructs that an additional sacrifice be brought upon the altar in the Temple. Thus, the Musaf service we recite on these special days corresponds to the additional sacrifice brought in the Temple.


However, the Musaf prayer is said only on holidays that are mentioned in the Five Books of Moses (Bible).  This applies to Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, in which the Torah commands that to offer the additional sacrifice in the Holy Temple. 


But, as mentioned before, Chanukah is a rabbinical holiday and in the days of the Temple there was no additional sacrifice brought on these days.  Thus, the Musaf prayer is not recited on Chanukah and Purim.


Q.  If Purim and Chanukah are both rabbinical holidays, why is the "Hallel" service, in which we give special praise to G-d, recited only Chanukah and not on Purim?


A.  The miracle of Chanukah took place in the Holy Land (Israel) while the miracle of Purim took place in Persia.  Hallel is recited for miracles which happened in the Land of Israel.


Another reason is that Purim we have the reading of the Megilah, which tells the story of the miracle of Purim, thus, praising G-d for this miracle.  Since on Chanukah there is no Megilah reading, we recite the Hallel, through which we praise G-d for this miracle. 


Q.   What is the significance of the four Hebrew letters, Nun, Gimel, Hay, Shin on the Driedel?


A.  They stand for: "Nes, Gadol, Haya, Sham" - A great miracle happened there - in Israel. In Israel, the letter "Shin" is substituted with the letter "Pay".  It stands for the Hebrew word "Poh" - "Here" ("A great miracle happened here"), as the miracle of Chanukah took place in Israel